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Oh Bobby!

Children's Story
God loves us way beyond anything we can imagine, and Jesus instructs us to love each other unconditionally, just as he loves us.

This is a story which begins to explore the concept of love. The story is about Bobby, who overhears his parents talking about him, and misunderstands what they say. He begins to realise the extent of their love for him when they stand by him even though he's done something really bad.

From a very young age, Bobby Hall knew he was a problem. He couldn't help getting into trouble, and his parents would sigh and say, "Oh Bobby!"

When he spilt treacle over the kitchen floor, or forgot to turn off the tap in the bathroom, or left the jigsaw all over the floor so that the dog chewed it up, his mother would shake her head and sigh, "Oh Bobby!" Lucy, his older sister copied their mother and sighed, "Oh Bobby!" And as soon as Polly, their younger sister could speak, she too began to shake her head and sigh, "Oh Bobby!"

Bobby generally pouted and stamped his foot and ran out of the room. Or sometimes he would scream or roar for added effect. And when he felt really fed up, he'd scream and roar and stamp and kick somewhere near his sisters, because that usually made them cry and made Bobby feel a lot better.

But he knew he was really bad, when he overheard his parents talking about "middle child syndrome". Bobby knew he was the middle child in the family, and he knew from Sunday School that sin was bad, even though he didn't really know what "drome" meant. He thought perhaps it was especially bad sin, because he knew an aerodrome was a very big place for airplanes, so perhaps "sin-drome" was very big sin.

For a while, Bobby Hall felt quite miserable knowing he was such an awful person. But then he decided if he was that bad, he'd better start acting as bad as he could be. And then he began to enjoy it, especially at school. He discovered that when he put little spots of glue on the teacher's chair, the other children loved it. They treated him with awe, and he became quite a hero in school. His teacher was often heard to sigh, "Oh Bobby!" but the children sang, "Oh Bobby!" in quite a different tone of voice.

Bobby's early success with the glue started all sorts of ideas in his mind. He became quite deft with glue, quietly sticking down the corners of envelopes so that they became almost impossible to open, and adding just a touch of glue to the class register, so that two pages were constantly sticking together.

But his best idea came when stumbled across a large pot of superglue in his Dad's garage. Bobby's mind sparkled, his eyes gleamed. He slipped the glue quietly into his school bag, and set off for school. While the other children were playing in the school playground before the bell went, Bobby slid into his classroom as silently as a ghost. He set to work very quickly, then glided out into the playground in time to join in with a game of football with his friends.

When the bell went, the children lined up in the playground and marched into school. Bobby's class sat down. "Open your desks," said the teacher, "and find a reading book while I take the register."

She pulled at the lid of her own desk, but it remained firmly shut. The children pulled and heaved, but not a single desk would open. The teacher was furious. "Who's responsible for this?" she asked. "Bobby Hall, stand up. Is this something to do with you?"

"Me, Miss?" said Bobby, looking hurt and innocent. "I've been playing football. Haven't I?" he appealed to his friends.

"Yes, Miss," they chorused, "Bobby's been with us."

The teacher went off to find the Headmaster, who came back looking very stern. He tried to open a couple of desks, but in vain. He gave the children a long lecture about the seriousness of damaging school property, and that they might have to call in the police, if no-one owned up. Bobby didn't hear any of the lecture. He was busy dreaming up his next scheme.

After an unpleasant week or two, while all the teachers walked around with grim faces looking suspiciously at all their pupils, the furore died down and seemed to be forgotten. Nobody had actually accused Bobby, although several had given him accusing looks, and Bobby felt rather pleased with himself. That is, until his father wandered into the garage one day and discovered his large pot of superglue was nearly empty.

Bobby was called before his parents. "Bobby, did you glue those desk lids down?" asked his father.

Bobby looked miserably at the floor. "Yes," he muttered.

"Why? What on earth possessed you to do such a thing? Don't you know you should respect other people's property? The desks belong to the school. Not only have you stolen a day's education from every child in your class, but you've caused the school a great deal of expense. What do you have to say about that?"

"I'm sorry," mumbled Bobby.

His father sighed. "Oh Bobby! I wish we could help you. It feels like you shut us out of your life, then try to be popular with the other kids by doing terrible things. One day, you'll really hurt someone. I don't want that to happen to you."

Bobby frowned. Then he shouted, "You don't love me! You love Lucy and Polly, but no-one loves me!"

His parents stared at him, their mouths open. Then his mother hugged him and said, "We love you very much Bobby, but you're always too busy trying to be bad, to notice."

"You must go to the headmaster tomorrow and apologise," said Bobby's father. And no matter how Bobby protested and cried and screamed and stamped, he was adamant.

In the morning, Bobby's heart sank as he watched his parents put on their coats. They were evidently going to deliver him to the school gates, so escape was impossible. But when they reached the school, to his surprise they stayed with him. They each held his hand, and walked with him to the Headmaster's office. Once inside, Bobby's Dad kept a protective arm around his son's shoulders, and Bobby's Mum continued to hold his hand.

To Bobby's amazement, his Dad spoke up for him. He told the Headmaster what Bobby had done, but said he was good deep down inside, there was no real badness in him. Bobby couldn't believe his ears. His Dad thought he was good?

"What about middle child sin-drome?" he blurted out. "How can you love me when I have all that sin inside me? Even though I'm sorry, nothing can change that. I'm just wicked because of my sin-drome."

All the grown-ups began to laugh, and Bobby's Dad explained that syndrome meant a set of symptoms, that middle children sometimes feel unloved and left out, even though they're not.

"I think from now on," he said, "we shall have to talk about middle child lovedrome, because we love you so much."

And Bobby suddenly realised that was true. His parents loved him so much that they didn't excuse what he'd done wrong, but they were alongside him all the way when he went to confess and face his punishment. They'd even given up a day's work each to go with him to the Headmaster.

The Headmaster suggested that as Bobby was so fond of glue, he should spend every spare moment for the next month making a matchstick model of the Houses of Parliament for the Infant's Class.

Bobby's Dad helped him make the model and Bobby discovered he loved making it. It took such a long time that Bobby quite forgot to be bad. And when it was finished he felt so proud of it, and so anxious to start another model, that he knew his "sin-drome" days were over forever.

And everybody who looked at the model sighed, "Oh Bobby!" But this time, Bobby didn't mind at all.
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